A contentious campaign comes to a head Sunday as Swiss voters go to the polls to decide on whether same-sex marriage should be allowed.
Earlier this month, thousands of people attended a high-spirited Pride parade in Zurich to support the legalization of same-sex marriage. They held up posters touting “Marriage for All” campaign slogans. They called for passage of the referendum that would grant gay and lesbian partners the same rights as heterosexual couples.
All Western European countries except Switzerland and Italy allow same-sex marriage. Germany and Austria were the last countries to approve such legislation in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Swiss campaigners believe this will improve chances of passing the referendum in this dominantly German-speaking country.
Opinion polls seem to uphold this view. While the gap between the yes and no campaigns has narrowed recently, the polls indicate more than 60% of the electorate support the proposal. The head of the Marriage for all Campaign, Olga Baranova, said she is confident of victory.
“Switzerland is quite a conservative country; we cannot forget it.But we have to say that for the last 20 years, people in Switzerland changed their mind completely on LGBT issues.So now people in Switzerland are ready for the same-sex marriage,” she said.
The Swiss government has endorsed the Marriage for All referendum. However, churches and right-wing political parties in this conservative, rich Alpine country oppose it. They claim legalizing same-sex marriage would undermine traditional family values.
If the proposal becomes law, lesbian and gay couples could adopt children, something they cannot legally do now. It also would grant easier access to sperm donations to lesbian couples who would want to start a family.Opponents say this would deny children their right to a father, as the identity of the sperm donor could not be revealed until the child reaches the age of 18.
Opponents vow they will not abandon this issue if the same-sex referendum passes. They note only 50,000 signatures of Swiss citizens are needed to get any matter on the ballot, in this highly democratized country.